Footsteps worth following: More than just a job
A love of ranching is often passed on from generation to generation, but this week we’ll show you that spark for the beef community is often shared within families who process and market the product, too. Follow along in our, “Footsteps worth following” series, as we celebrate fathers and profile some of the men who have pursued their careers with an intensity that has inspired their sons to join the profession.
Matt Kotuba can still remember the smell of meat on his father’s hands when he’d come home from work every night.
“It wasn’t a bad smell,” he says, fondly. “I love that smell.”
All grown up now, his father Steve still comes home sporting the familiar aroma — but now Matt does, too.
The father-son meat cutting duo both work for Certified Angus Beef® brand licensee Giant Eagle, a supermarket chain with stores in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, north central West Virginia and Maryland. Steve is a meat team leader at the company’s Settler’s Ridge location while Matt is the meat team leader at store No. 43, The Township of Pine Market District, both in Pittsburgh, Penn.
As second- and third- generation meat cutters, respectively, both got their starts early in life — and both knew there was no other career for them. Matt has fond memories of working in his grandfather’s butcher shop, alongside his dad, as young as 12. Steve’s recollection goes back even farther.
“I’d stand on a milk crate and do bones long before I could reach the counter,” Steve says.
Even then, he had a passion.
“My dad put the love of meat in me. He would raise cattle and buy cattle and I just couldn’t wait to harvest them and see what they looked like,” Steve says. “I guess I did the same thing to Matt as my dad did to me. He’s got a real love for it, too.”
Guys like Steve and Matt, with a passion for meat cutting? They’re a bit of a dying breed in a time where many meat cutters hold the position temporarily, between other supermarket gigs.
“I’ve been with Giant Eagle 23 years and I’ve probably gone through a couple hundred meat cutters,” Steve says. “And I can’t say that I’ve found many who truly love it like we do.”
They do their jobs and do them very well, of course, but it’s not in their blood like the Kotubas’. It’s just another reason both men are great leaders, a responsibility they both take very seriously. Matt says leading his team is one of the most rewarding aspects of his career. And Steve takes great pride in educating his customers when it comes to beef buying and preparation — all in hopes that they’ll have the best possible eating experience. Sometimes he even invites guests to help him out.
“Every summer, I’ll go to the fairs and buy the grand and reserve grand champion steers,” Steve says. “Then I invite the exhibitors up here to talk to my customers about the beef they raised.”
For both father and son, there’s no doubt it’s more than just a job. And one of the biggest reasons? Working with Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand product.
“I’ve worked with a lot of quality beef, but there’s nothing like it,” Matt says, noting the quality and consistency makes his job a whole lot easier.
“All I’d have to say to quality-focused producers,” Steve adds, “is they’re doing a great job.”
Katrina Huffstutler is a freelance writer based in Electra, Texas. She’s a frequent contributor to the Black Ink team and lover of functional cattle and quality beef.